COLUMBIA, Mo. – Missouri’s annual Braggin’ Rights game against Illinois will be played on Dec. 23, the schools announced Wednesday. That’s a Saturday, two days before Christmas.
Game time and television info haven’t been announced.
The game, played at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, has more juice this season than in its last few installments. The schools used social media to jack up the hype another notch on Wednesday.
Missouri announced the game date on its men’s basketball Twitter account with a photo of three Tigers – freshman center Jeremiah Tilmon, junior guard Cullen VanLeer and senior forward Jordan Barnett – who are from the St. Louis area. Tilmon was in the middle in the announcement photo, dunking over an image of the Arch.
Tilmon, from East St. Louis, initially signed with Illinois last November but was released from his letter of intent following the Illini’s firing of coach John Groce in March, and Tilmon flipped to Missouri, drawing the ire of Illini fans.
Shortly after Missouri’s tweet, Illinois’ official university account posted a tweet featuring the photos of celebrating Illini players after each of Illinois’ victories in the Braggin’ Rights game from the past four seasons. Before the Illini’s four-game winning streak in the series, Missouri had a four-game streak from 2009-12.
Since the rivalry became dubbed the Braggin’ Rights game and started being played on an annual basis in 1980, Illinois leads the series 24-12.
Tilmon expects he’ll catch some flak from Illinois fans during the game.
“There’s going to be a lot of fans disagreeing with me being on the team,” Tilmon said last week. “I’m just going to play the game and not worry about it.”
Tilmon, for his part, said he was disappointed when Groce was dismissed but that he has no ill will toward the Illini.
“I don’t have nothing bad to say about them. I hope they have a great season this year, too,” said Tilmon, a four-star recruit.
The rivalry needs a boost.
Last year’s crowd of 12,409 was the smallest turnout for the game since it moved to Scottrade in 1994. Those on hand watched Illinois beat Missouri 75-66.
Tilmon’s flip-flop isn’t the only reason for the added sizzle. Both teams have new coaches. Missouri hired East St. Louis native Cuonzo Martin, who was at California for three seasons, to replace Kim Anderson. Illinois tapped Brad Underwood, who was at Oklahoma State for one season, to replace Groce.
Martin then got the nation’s top recruit, Michael Porter Jr., to come aboard after Washington released Porter from his letter of intent following UW’s firing of Lorenzo Romar, Porter’s godfather.
Both fan bases are ready for something to cheer about. Missouri went 27-68 during the three-year Anderson era. The Tigers last reached the NCAA Tournament in 2013. Although the five-year Groce era produced four winning seasons, it yielded only one NCAA Tournament appearance, in 2013.